The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA):
(KINGS POINT, N.Y.) — The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point graduated 229 new Merchant Marine and military officers as part of its Class of 2016 commencement ceremony Saturday.
The keynote speaker, Gen. Darren W. McDew, commander, U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM), gave the commencement address before a crowd of more than 2,200, including graduates, family members and representatives from the federal government, U.S. military and maritime industry.
“Your craft now is leadership,” said McDew. “On behalf of the men and women of Transportation Command, and the men and women of our nation’s armed forces, Bravo Zulu on a job well done, welcome aboard, and welcome to the team.”
This year’s graduates represent 42 states, the District of Columbia, and the three foreign countries: Republic of Korea, Republic of Panama and Malaysia.
Superintendent Rear Adm. James A. Helis, USMS, charged the graduates to “lead with character and courage.” He said, “the American people will look to you, from this day forward, to protect and advance the nation’s marine transportation and defense needs in peace and war. As officers in the Merchant Marine and the armed forces, you will be responsible for the safety, the well-being, and the very lives of those with whom you sail and serve.”
Helis recognized and thanked Director of Music Capt. Kenneth R. Force, USMS, and Department of Marine Transportation Professor Capt. Douglas A. Hard, USMS, who are both retiring this year, for their many years of service to the academy.
Speaking to the graduates, distinguished alumnus speaker Rear Adm. Philip H. Greene Jr., U.S. Navy, retired, Class of 1978, said, “you are our future leaders of leaders." He charged the graduates and new alumni to “always remember to live by our motto, acta non verba!”
Valedictorian Thomas Kloepfer of Amityville, N.Y., said, “there is one thing we are all guaranteed to miss: our classmates.” Quoting musician Tim McGraw, he urged his classmates to “always stay humble and kind.”
Class President Benjamin Morris of Panama City, Fla., thanked the families, noting, “without your help we wouldn’t be here.” He commended his classmates, saying, “everyone did their part to get the 229 of us here to graduate.”
As part of the commencement exercises 38 graduates were sworn in as active-duty officers in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. Another 25 graduates will be sworn in to the Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard at a later date. The remaining U.S. graduates will serve as Navy reservists in the Strategic Sealift Officer Program while working aboard deep sea vessels, offshore supply vessels, tugs, towing vessels, and international flag vessels.
Each congressionally-nominated graduate received a bachelor of science eegree and an unlimited Merchant Marine officer license from the Coast Guard, and an officer’s commission in the Navy or other branch of the military. In exchange for their education each has the option of serving as a Merchant Marine officer while concurrently serving in any branch of the U.S. military in the reserves, or serving five years of active duty. USMMA graduates ensure a steady stream of Merchant Marine officers who support the nation’s economic and security requirements in times of peace and war.
“You can’t do it alone; it’s through your family and friends that you get through,” said Daniel Giaccio-Williams of East Northport, N.Y. “It’s a beautiful day!”